Intelligent cow collars to improve profitability

Farmers of the future could receive a text message when their cow is in distress or coming into labour, thanks to a project co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

The three-year £1.4m project to develop a ‘smart collar’, which monitors the health of cows and sends the results back to farmers using mobile techology involves Morrisons, Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), NMR, Harbro, Well Cow and Embedded Technology Solutions (a Strathclyde spin-out company).

The intelligent collar picks up on subtle movements from the cow, using the same sensor used in Wii gaming, generating a continuous record of their activity patterns. Results are sent back using wireless technologies such as 3G, with a full update accessible via a hub or even through a mobile phone. Farmers can set up alerts for their phone to receive a text when a cow is in distress or entering labour.

The collar will also be able to monitor illness in cows and help streamline the insemination process by detecting when a cow is coming into heat, helping to improve farm profits and animal welfare, researchers said.

Researchers have produced the technology and it is now being tested on Morrisons’ farm at Dumfries House in Scotland, using the grant from the Technology Strategy Board.

David Evans, Morrisons’ head of agriculture, said: “The future of farming is extremely important to us as a business, as is animal welfare. This technology can help secure it by allowing farmers to monitor the health conditions of individual cows far more easily and accurately. Not only can this development help to save the farmer money,  it can also help to keep food affordable.”

David Alvis, who leads the Technology Strategy Board’s work on sustainable agriculture and food, added: “We are delighted to support this innovative project. Addressing animal health and welfare challenges and improving animal performance monitoring are vital pieces of the food security jigsaw. The technologies developed through this project have the potential to benefit farming communities in the UK and around the world and we wish the partners every success.”

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